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CNC Nesting Explained: Graphical Guide



John Abraham
Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com


Nesting software for laser cutting

When you are doing CNC manufacturing in large quantities, a small improvement in the efficiency of the material consumption can make a huge difference.

This is where CNC nesting comes in.

CNC nesting is the process of finding the most space-efficient layout to arrange the cutting patterns on workpieces of the desired length. CNC nesting algorithms are optimized to find the best fit and this becomes especially important to reduce material waste along with production costs and time.

In this article, I explain CNC nesting in detail through graphics.

In the end, I’ve also listed out some of the best CNC nesting software and the things to look for in a CNC nesting software. 

What is CNC Nesting? Explained

Deepnest nesting software
Deepnest nesting software (Source: Deepnest)

CNC nesting is the process of arranging the design elements in such a way that it maximizes the use of the raw material.

It helps you find the most efficient layout of parts on your workpiece. This can either be done by using software or manually, depending on the scale of your production and interest.

When you are manufacturing a large number of pieces, it is crucial for you to use the least amount of material to maximize your output and keep the manufacturing costs to a minimum. 

An inefficient layout will result in a lot of wastage, both of the raw material and the time of manufacturing. 

Hence, it becomes necessary to use good CNC nesting software that can give you the best results. 

CNC nesting can be divided into two main types of nesting – static and dynamic nesting. 

Static nesting is used when a low number of unique parts are to be produced in high volumes.

The parts remain the same therefore the nesting pattern also remains the same that is used on different sheet metals. 

Dynamic nesting is used when constantly new orders are to be produced, hence the nesting pattern also changes according to the requirements of the new orders. 

Static nesting can be used when the variety of parts is less but the volume of production is high. 

Dynamic nesting, on the other hand, is more suited for applications where you need to manufacture different types of parts, but the production rate is comparatively slow. 

Why do we Need CNC Nesting?

Fitting the design on a smaller workpiece by using CNC nesting
Fitting the design on a smaller workpiece by using CNC nesting

Whether you are a small business or a hobbyist, you would want to save material waste and money. 

When manufacturing multiple parts, you would need to find the most optimum cutting pattern on your workpiece. 

You can manually do the nesting, i.e., arrange the designs yourself and find the best fit.

But this often requires you to put in a lot of effort yourself, especially if you are on a budget and the volume of production is high. 

Using CNC nesting software will help you arrange the design in the most efficient manner and save a lot of time, thereby increasing productivity.

When working with non-recyclable materials, reducing the material waste becomes even more critical as the leftover pieces are rendered useless, which can account for a huge loss and also be harmful to the environment.

Hence, CNC nesting helps to reduce the need for logging, mining, and manufacturing of such materials. 

CNC nesting software also implements advanced algorithms that are able to find the most space-efficient layout by considering some factors that you might miss out on if you do it manually. 

Using nesting software increases productivity and efficiency as the cutting toolpath can be set up in such a way that adjacent parts can share a cut. 

This reduces the travel distance of the tool and saves time and power. 

How to Perform CNC Nesting?

How to perform Nesting
Steps to perform Nesting (Source: SVGnest)

As the manufacturing market becomes more competitive, it becomes necessary to find the most space-efficient layout on the available sheet materials. 

The process of CNC nesting involves some simple steps.

  1. Prepare a design of the available workpiece material.
  2. Prepare the design for the parts to be cut.
  3. Import both designs into a CNC nesting software.
  4. Run the nesting software and let it arrange the design automatically.

CNC nesting software is a part of CAM that implements complex algorithms to achieve this task. 

It falls under the category of Numerical Control (NC) programming that generates two-dimensional models used to run the CNC machine through G-code. 

One of the most basic operations that CNC nesting software perform is to identify the common edges between adjacent parts. This saves tool time and distance and thereby saves energy. 

Good nesting software is able to sort the different parts on the basis of priority and cut the most important parts first.

Things to look for in a Nesting Software

Good nesting software can help you get the best layout and prevent material waste.

There are a few things that you should keep in mind while selecting the appropriate nesting software for your application.

CNC nesting software should be able to label the parts automatically.

This becomes important if you have to make multiple copies of the same part so that you can keep track of the number of parts manufactured. 

The nesting software that you choose should be able to group duplicate materials on the same board. This will save time and you wouldn’t have to wait for the other boards in order to start your work.

It should also be able to perform grouping on the basis of the material because every material will require different CNC settings.  

After the CNC nesting software gives you the output, it might still need some further optimization. 

In that case, you can manually adjust the layout as per your liking. Hence, you should look for software that allows you to edit the layout. 

After the layout is complete, it has to be imported to a suitable CAM software for generating the toolpath. 

You can save time by selecting a nesting software that can directly link to your CAM software so that you don’t have to spend time exporting it. 

Best CNC Nesting software

Lantek Expert Cut software interface
Lantek Expert Cut (Source: Lantek)

If you are getting started with CNC machining or you are an experienced professional, you will need dedicated nesting software to get the best output. 

I have listed some free and paid nesting software here. 

Nest&CutPaid and Free
Lanktek Expert CutPaid
Best CNC nesting software

To get a detailed review of these software programs, you can check out the article-Best Nesting Software.

Does Nesting Software Output Require Optimization?

Modern-day nesting software can perform a commendable job in finding efficient layouts. 

However, the software output may still be needed to be reviewed or edited by an experienced professional to find the intricate details that the software might miss out on. 

The first is to optimize the design to try and make parts as rectangular as possible. This way the edges of the sheet material can be utilized and different parts can share common cuts. 

You might need to edit the space between different parts according to the material and thickness.

The software will give the clearance according to the settings you input, but it may not take into account the non-idealities of the machine and the material, which can only be identified by an experienced machinist. 

You may need to review and verify the layout for any overlaps that the algorithm might have done to fit all the parts on the sheet material. 

Final Thoughts

CNC nesting is used for two important functions – to reduce material waste and save time.

It is performed by arranging the different parts on the sheet material in the best fit possible, to increase the number of parts that can be manufactured from a single piece of material. 

You can use various free and paid software to perform the nesting. Some software also provides you the option of making edits to the software output for further optimization. 

3D nesting is also possible, however, it is significantly more complex than 2D nesting. If you are a hobbyist or a small business owner, chances are you are mostly going to use 2D nesting. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is 3D nesting more complex than 2D nesting?

3D nesting is the process of fitting as many 3D objects as possible into the printing space. The addition of another dimension makes nesting significantly more complex as it greatly increases the number of possibilities of the fitting arrangements. It introduces more constraints and hence needs higher processing power to perform 3D nesting. It also becomes a lot harder to manually review or edit the software output arrangement. 

Which is one of the best free CNC nesting software?

Deepnest is one of the best free CNC nesting software. It is open-source software that can be installed on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can import DXF, SVG, and Corel CDR file formats. The line-merging feature of Deepnest, which can merge lines so that adjacent parts can share a cut, can save you a lot of time.  

Can CNC nesting software be used to execute the cut?

No, dedicated nesting software is used only to rearrange the design. After you are done with the nesting and you have verified the layout for any errors, you can import the nest to CAM software. The CAM software will generate a G-code that will operate the CNC machine to cut out the parts from your sheet material.

John Abraham
Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com